'Recession is good for art'
There was nothing else 29-year-old Remen Chopra wanted to do as far as she remembers. She says she was always creative and ever since she was five, she had pretty much made up her mind about what she wanted to do with her life.
Remen earned a Master's degree in fine arts from the College of Art in New Delhi. She also studied art history in Italy and returned to India and learnt photography.
Although she's a trained painter, Remen experiments with various media.
Here she tells us just what it takes to be an artist and the worst thing that every artist must be prepared for.
Did you always want to become an artist?
I guess so. As far as I remember, I was always creative and expressed myself visually. Further I was being trained in Indian classical music and dance. So my creative energies were always channelised in the right directions.
You've completed your masters in Fine Arts from New Delhi. What happened next?
I studied art history in Italy. After which I went to Paris to attend a workshop on drawing. I returned to India and earned a diploma in photography. My big break came in 2006 when I got to exhibit my work with Dr Alka Pande. I also got noticed when I was featured with two other women artists in a show called Cross Poly Nations. Bodhi Art Gallery approached me and things began to roll after that.
I have been trained as a pure painter. However today I experiment with different media. I use as a base theatrical productions, photography and sculptures.
'You need to be honest about your work'
Were your parents okay with the idea of you taking up a somewhat off-beat vocation such as this one?
Absolutely! In fact they encouraged me. My mother is a teacher in English and my father is an entrepreneur. So they always inculcated in me the desire to follow my dreams.
Have you suffered a creative block? How do you get over it?
Of course I have, especially during my college days. I usually switch off and turn to other sources for inspiration -- it might be watching a film or reading a book or just popping my iPod!
What would be your advice to aspiring artists?
Be very honest with your work and yourself.
How much of uncertainty can one expect in this vocation?
A lot of it. You never know what your next step will be. But then again this uncertainty is what brings out the maximum creativity in me.
How has the recession affected you?
I feel the recession is a great thing to have happened. Personally, I have actually had time to experiment and think. It's fantastic. Not so long ago Indian art had seen a big boom. But it was a bubble that had to burst. Art cannot be related to money and when it does it loses its value and becomes commodity. That's what had been happening. However recession has managed to bring about a change that was much required.
'Be ready for criticism'
How does one go about establishing your name in the circles that matter?
Although I did not have to do much of it, the way to go about is sending CDs to galleries working in your genre. Then you meet them and convince them to show your work.
What are the career prospects for up and coming artists?
It is important to stop thinking of art as a career. An artist is an artist. You can't keep doing things for the sake of fame and money.
What about brass tag realities? You can't live on fresh air and water, can you?
I guess one has to keep a job too then. But it is important that one disciplines oneself and not let it suck out one's creative juices. Thankfully I did not have to do it. I started off by writing and researching for an art historian.
Besides desire and talent, what soft skills does one require to 'become an artist'?
It is extremely important to learn the language of art. I feel it is important to join an art school and get trained. That and the willingness to experiment should help you make it.
What is the worst that an aspiring artist should be prepared for?
Criticism. Be ready to hear that your favourite work is the worst piece of art!